Whole Grain Bread

love making my own bread.  Kneading the dough is so relaxing.  I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably!  Think bricks.  I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up.  Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard.  It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem.  I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too.  Hallelujah!  Fresh bread again!  My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore.  I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!

  Homemade Whole Grain Bread

Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)

  • 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
  • ½ c. dry oatmeal
  • 1 T. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ c. water
  • ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)

Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl.  Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour.)  Set aside remaining 2½  c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees.  Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water.  Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly.  Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten.  Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.)  After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well.  The dough should look shaggy.  If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour.  Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour.  Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.)  More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky.  Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy.  It will slightly push back as you knead it.  If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.

Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil.  Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you.  This will tell you that you kneaded it enough.  Better not enough kneading than too much!  Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area.  Let rise until double in size.

Oil your 8”x4” bread pans.  Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times.  Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Form into loaves.  If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan.  Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil.  Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.

The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs.  It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use.  It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.

*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt.  Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees.  You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water.   Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.

** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands.  Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again.  Keep doing this for 10 minutes.  You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go.  As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you.  It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it.  This will be at about the 10 minute mark.  Try not to over-knead the bread.  If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.

Note:  If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans.  This makes a higher loaf.

Apple Pecan Muffins

I got a message from a friend who is cooking for a group of young people involved in an Christian outreach program this summer.  She needed 2 dozen vegan muffins ~ could I help?  How could I say no?  Especially since this amazing woman is cooking for these kids even though she recently fell and broke her shoulder!

These are some of my favorite muffins and I wanted to share them with you.  But I confess I haven’t made them recently, because hubby and I would be tempted to eat them, wheat and all.  So, this was the perfect excuse to bake them for the recipe photo-op, but with temptation being removed!  🙂

I’ve been making this recipe for a very long time.  I made and froze these before my last baby was born so that once I needed them, hubby could bring them to me in the hospital to eat.  (Hospital food and veganism just don’t seem to dovetail very well.)  That baby is now 15!!  And I’ve been making them longer than that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to.

Apple Pecan Muffins

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s are good)
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (best if you can get ahold of Saigon or Ceylon, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (do not add water)
  • 1 c. chopped apple (the finer you chop it the softer it will be)
  • 1/4 c. broken pecan pieces (or chop if you want finer pieces)
  • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • soy milk added to lemon juice to make 1 c. total**
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 c. applesauce & an extra 1/4 c. oil)
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray muffin cups with oil.  Whisk lemon juice and soy milk together and set aside.

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg replacer powder in a mixing bowl.  Add pecans and chopped apple, tossing to coat apple with flour mixture.  In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk/lemon juice mixture (which should have curdled into vegan buttermilk) with the applesauce, oil, and maple syrup/honey.  With a rubber spatula, scrape wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together until no dry spots remain. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  As you can see from the picture of the unbaked batter, these will be very full muffin cups!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Place muffin pan on wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  (Trust me on this, okay?  It’s absolutely necessary, or your muffins will not let go of the pan and you’ll have muffin pieces that are slightly gooey because they haven’t finished setting up in the pan.)  Remove from pans with fingers ~ if they won’t let go with just a tiny tug, then let them cool a little longer (esp. in the summer if you don’t have the A/C on.)  Place on rack to finish cooling.

** I have only tried this with soy milk.  It probably works with other non-dairy milks, but I cannot vouch for how they behave.

Make Your Muffins Healthier

It’s possible to re-make your favorite muffin recipes into healthier vegan versions.  Don’t hesitate to experiment with them.  Here are some tips:

  • Replace from half up to all of the oil with applesauce (the best texture comes from leaving about 2 T. of oil per dozen muffins)
  • Replace eggs with Ener-G egg replacer powder (1 1/2 tsp. per egg, plus 2 T liquid such as water or non-dairy milk added to the liquid ingredients, or if replacing the sugar with liquid sweetener, omit the extra liquid for just 1 egg)
  • Replace the sugar with honey or maple syrup to add more moistness, but be sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°
  • Use whole grain flours and oats instead of white flour
  • Use non-dairy milk

Here is an example of a modified muffin recipe:

Original:

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Healthier Version:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 T. light olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 T. unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour (*note)
  • 1/3 c. honey or maple syrup
  • 1 T. non-aluminum baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Original directions:  Heat oven to 400°.  Grease bottoms only of about 12 medium muffin cups.  Beat egg; stir in milk and oil.  Stir in remaining ingredients all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan.

Healthier version directionsHeat oven to 375°.  Spray 12 medium muffin cups with oil mister or use paper liners.  Whisk all dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Whisk all wet ingredients in small bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into dry, stirring just until moistened.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan – slip knife around edges if necessary to loosen.

Variations:

Blueberry: Stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries during the last few stirs after wet ingredients are added to dry.

Banana: Decrease milk to 1/3 cup; stir in 1 c. mashed bananas (2-3 medium) with the wet ingredients.  Add 1/3 c. chopped nuts and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, if desired, to the dry ingredients.

Oatmeal-Raisin: Stir in 1 cup raisins with the dry ingredients.  Decrease flour to 1 cup; stir in 1 cup quick oats, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon with the dry ingredients.

Pumpkin: Stir in 1/2 c. pumpkin with the wet ingredients.  Stir in 1/2 c. raisins and 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice with the dry ingredients.

Date-Nut: Stir in 1/2 c. chopped dates and 1/3 c. chopped nuts with the dry ingredients.

Apple-Nut: Stir in 1 medium apple, pared and chopped, with the wet ingredients.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 c. chopped nuts with the dry ingredients.

*NOTE: King Arthur’s white whole wheat is fantastic to use, as it’s made from spring wheat that is lighter in color and sweeter in flavor.  You can also use 1/2 – 1 c. oats in place of part of the flour.